The Myth of Neutrality
Is it possible to arrive at true knowledge about anything in life by assuming a position of neutrality toward God? Some would have us believe that the only way to discover the truth is to investigate each situation or question by assuming a position of neutrality with respect to God’s existence and explanations found in the Scriptures. In other words, we are told to begin our thinking and search for knowledge by neither admitting to God’s existence, nor denying it—we are to be neutral and just let the “facts” speak for themselves. To many Christians, such a starting place not only sounds very reasonable and harmless, but appears to them to be the only ethical and sincere way to discover the truth about anything. Whatever we think about the possibility of neutrality will affect every aspect of our thinking and every conclusion we arrive at, thus investigating this claim of neutrality is of the utmost importance.
Those who proclaim the possibility of having a neutral starting place for their investigations (whether they are talking about /God’s existence or a just economic policy), believe there are basically three different starting places:
- Where God’s existence is assumed at the outset of the investigation.
- Where the possibility of God’s existence is denied at the outset of the investigation.
- Or where you remain neutral and open-minded with respect to the possibility that God either exists or doesn’t exist and allow the facts to show which one is true.
First Beliefs Control Our Thinking
The person who embraces position 2 or 3, is not merely dealing with the question of God’s existence in isolation from everything else he claims to know. Rather, his stance with respect to God rests heavily upon many other assumptions, which he embraces without any investigation and without being neutral. For example, he assumes that sin has had no effect upon his ability to understand and correctly interpret the facts around him—hardly a neutral position. To deny that sin has affected your mind is not a conclusion made at the end of extensive research, but is assumed to be true at the beginning of one’s investigation and is therefore a first belief, or presupposition. First beliefs are not arrived at by so called neutral investigation, but are embraced before any investigation on your part even starts. However, to assume that sin has not affected your ability to interpret the facts you come across, you have to believe that certain assumptions you have about the nature of the universe, possibility, truth, reality, etc., are correct, even though you haven’t proven them through investigation. How, in any sense at all, is it possible to investigate any fact from a so-called position of neutrality, when certain assumptions (that determine how you will understand that fact), have to be accepted as true before any kind of investigation is even possible? Neutrality is therefore, impossible! To put it another way: before anyone can even begin thinking about any fact in this world, they have to embrace certain first beliefs, which though not arrived at through investigation, dictate the direction and conclusion of every investigation thereafter. The person who asks you to investigate any fact in the universe by first assuming a position of neutrality towards God and His revelation, is trying to deceive you by corrupting you in the way that Satan corrupted Eve in the garden (Gen.3; 2 Cor.11:3). He wants you to exchange one set of assumptions for another set, but he wants you to believe that the new set of assumptions are not assumptions at all. However, his very suggestion that it’s possible to be neutral, is a massive assumption and not a conclusion made after investigating the evidence—this is his starting position.
The most fundamental and therefore inescapable first belief that every person must embrace, before any thinking whatsoever is possible, has to do with the existence of God. The God we are talking about is not a god defined by human imagination, but is the only true God, who was fully revealed to us by Jesus Christ (2 Cor.4:4; Col.1:15; Heb.1:3) and testimony of which is now preserved for us in the Scriptures. The starting place for all human thinking rests upon a person’s first beliefs about the true God. Each person either assumes the existence or the non-existence of God and these are the only two possible positions that can be adopted with respect to the true God—there is no other option. The suggestion that we ought not to assume either God’s existence or non-existence until we have fully investigated the facts ourselves, is high treason against the creator of the universe. To suspend judgement with respect to God and His revelation means we are claiming to be able to make a detailed investigation of all the evidence on our own. This is nothing other than placing ourselves on the judge’s seat and God in the dock. The idea that we can adopt a neutral position toward God comes from Satan himself and is no different to his lie in the garden to Eve. Rather than trying to deny God’s existence, Satan seduced Eve into thinking she could be neutral about God’s truth until she had investigated all the facts herself. Satan suggested that Eve couldn’t be certain about anything until she had thoroughly investigated all the respective claims from a position of independence and neutrality. There was God’s perspective and then there was Satan’s perspective and Eve undertook to choose between the two according to her own self-made criteria—“Let me just look at the facts and decide for myself.” Was this not a very rational and reasonable approach for her to take? It certainly made a lot of sense to Eve and continues to sound reasonable to everyone who has been taken captive by this lie from the devil.
The Existence Of God
The starting place for all thinking includes one’s first belief about the existence of God, which in turn determines one’s whole view of and approach to life and knowledge. If you deny that God exists or if you determine that He is not to be trusted, then everything you think and do will be shaped by this. All our conclusions and opinions are determined by our starting place and that starting place has to do with the existence and revelation of God. It must be realised that when you assume your starting position with respect to either the existence or non-existence of the Triune God, you are not merely dealing with one small topic, but you are adopting a package deal. This means, a whole lot of other vital assumptions are included and inseparable from your starting place and they influence the way you interpret every other fact you come across. We never interpret any fact in isolation of our assumptions and understanding about the nature and existence of the only true God. Whether we have a positive or negative attitude toward God, this first belief impacts everything else we think and do. The person who refuses to make a decision about God’s existence at the outset of his “investigation” does not start his investigation from neutral ground, but rather, ignores the fact that he has adopted a whole pile of assumptions that are certainly not neutral. Those who claim to be neutral about God’s existence at the outset of their investigation (no matter what that might be), are suppressing the inescapable knowledge of God in order to promote their own agenda (Ps.19:1-6; Prov.1:7; Rom.1:19-23).
To argue that we must be neutral toward God is, for example, not being neutral about:
- Whether man is able, on his own, to arrive at the truth. Rather it is claiming that people can attain comprehensive and true knowledge through research that is independent of God and that there can be no debate about their ability to do so.
- Whether God’s wisdom is a necessary factor in our investigations, but saying it is definitely not necessary.
- The question of evil in the world. While this person might not have an explanation for evil, he has to deny the effects of the fall and claim that sin has not affected his ability to attain knowledge independently of God. Is this assuming a neutral position with respect to evil and sin? No! Such a position has categorically denied that sin has had any adverse effect upon the individual and therefore, individuals can depend totally upon their own “unbiased” investigations to determine truth.
- How to define good and evil, or justice and injustice, for man’s opinion is given absolute authority in determining such things.
Comprehensive neutrality is impossible, therefore, what integrity is there in being selectively neutral about God’s existence and revelation? What becomes evident, is that this “humble, open-minded” approach to knowledge (i.e., the let’s be neutral about God’s existence and truth in our search for knowledge), is nothing other than a subtle attempt to beguile the simple and suppress the knowledge of God. It is an attempt to overthrow the Kingdom with a smile or in a “gentlemanly” way—I’ll clean my knife before I graciously stick it into your heart kind of approach. When a person claims he’s being neutral about God, it is merely a cloak to disguise his prejudice against God and His inescapable truth. We must not be taken captive by the deception and slight of hand that professes the possibility of having a neutral starting place for investigating facts in this universe. The claim of neutrality is a myth and a deceptive myth at that (Col.2:3-8).
Trying to be neutral about God and His revelation is not only practically impossible, but more seriously, it is morally perverse. God rejects the possibility of neutrality and therefore Christians shouldn’t tolerate the idea of neutrality even for a moment. The claim to being neutral with respect to God is ultimately an attempt to be independent of God, whereas the Scriptures make it very clear that we are absolutely dependent upon Him for everything, every moment of our lives. It is this reality of being totally dependent upon God that is most offensive to the rebel and is the root of all sin (this is what Adam and Eve rebelled against in the garden)—they wanted to be self-regulating and thus free from God’s wisdom and legislation. We must forever be aware of our own natural leaning towards being a law unto ourselves. Unless we are self-consciously bringing every thought into submission to Christ’s mind (2 Cor.10:5), we will be embracing our own wisdom rather than God’s wisdom. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Job 28:28; Ps.111:10; Prov.9:10).
Living By Faith
When God says, “The just shall live by faith” (Heb.10:36-39), He is clearly showing that our starting place for everything we do and think is to be His word. This means we are not to use our own human reasoning ability to check His wisdom before we accept it as true. We do what God has said by faith, bringing our lives into line with His every word, because it is God’s word. Jesus said that it’s only when we do the truth, that we will know it is the truth (John 7:17), but such a life can only be lived by faith. Jesus also said that whoever was not for Him, was against Him (Matt.12:30). To be against Christ is the same as living against the truth and remember, God’s word is truth (John 17:17). Thus, whenever our thinking and living is not in accordance with God’s word, we are opposing Christ. There is a real danger of being deceived and embrace the philosphy of this world (Col.2:8), which is not in accord with God’s word, but in oppositon to it. The believer is expected to cast down any reasoning that is contrary to God’s truth (2 Cor.10:5) and to live by every word that comes from His mouth (Matt.4:4), because everything he needs to know in order to glorify the Lord has been revealed in the Scriptures (2 Tim.3:16,17). Time and again we are exhorted to forsake our own wisdom (Prov.3:5,7; 23:4; 28:26; Isa.5:21; Jer.9:23,24; 10:23), for our wisdom is foolishness (1 Cor.1:19,20). Therefore, to assume a so called neutral starting place in our pursuit of knowledge about any aspect of life or reality, arises from vain, deceptive thinking. To be seduced like this is a real danger and so Paul warned the Colossians not to be deceived by persuasive words and empty philosophy (Col.2:4,8). He also warned the Ephesians about being deceived by empty words (Eph.5:6). Any thinking that is independent of God’s wisdom is futile, dark and alienated from the life of God (Eph.4:17,18). Believers are to manifest the reality that they have the mind of Christ (2 Cor.2:16), by bringing every thought captive to Him (2 Cor.10:5). They are to acknowlege, by the way they think His thoughts after Him, that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge reside in Him (Col.2:3) and that He has the preeminence in all things (Col.1:15-18). When you rely upon or trust some word other than God’s word, you are being an enemy in your mind toward God (Col.1:21).
God’s authoritative word doesn’t only speak about how we are to be saved and how the assembly of the redeemed are to gather together and worship Him (i.e., in the institutional church). His word is comprehensive and thus we can never assume a position of neutrality with respect to any aspect of life. The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof (Ps.24:1), which means God’s Kingdom rule touches everything, thus we are to be holy in all our conduct (1 Pet.1:15). The King of the universe doesn’t have a post-dated reign on the earth (i.e., only effective some time in the future). The Lord who claims sovereign right to and authority over everything that exists (1 Chron.29:11; Ps.24:1; 50:12), is the King who reigns not only in heaven above, but on the earth beneath (Deut.4:39; Joshua 2:11; 2 Chron.20:6; Ps.83:18; Matt.28:18). The King is King now, and thus He reigns over all things now (see the article, Redemption Versus The Fall). Only the King’s will is to be done in His Kingdom (Deut.10:14; Ps.24:1; 50:12; Matt.4:10) and His will has been comprehensively revealed to us and preserved for us in the Scriptures.
We are either thinking God’s thoughts after Him about everything or we are in rebellion against Him in what we think and do. There is no neutral starting place for determining what will be the best way to do something. This is God’s universe and only God has revealed how He expects us to think and act with respect to all things. If we rebel against what God has revealed, we will fail on two accounts: firstly, because ultimately our thinking and acting will be defective and secondly, because God will judge our rebellion and bring it to nought (Deut.32:15-44; Prov.1:29-33; 8:36). There is no neutrality with respect to the content of any subject (whether we are talking about God or anything in His creation) and those who say there is, understand neither the subject nor the Kingdom.
Since there is no neutrality with respect to anything in God’s world, our thinking about every area is either done in submission to God and His truth, or in rebellion against Him. We are either seeking to live in complete dependence upon Christ or in independence from Him. Need I say where we will find success and contentment and where we will reap frustration and failure? Be not deceived, whatever we sow, we will reap and “he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal.6:7,8); “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom.6:13); “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom.8:13,14). In every area of our lives we either live according to the flesh or the Spirit (Matt.5:17-19). Living according to the Spirit means submitting ourselves under the mighty hand of God and doing all things in obedience to Him, which includes resisting the foolish idea of neutrality. Jesus didn’t say whoever was not against Him was for Him, but rather, whoever was not for Him, was against Him (Lk.11:23). The way Christ put it, clearly shows that to adopt a so called neutral position with respect to Him and his truth, is to oppose Him. Neutrality is a deceptive myth and we must not be seduced by its apparent reasonableness or popularity in our day.